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Minnesota Launches New Program to Connect the Unserved

The program, called the Broadband Line Extension Connection Program, will work differently from other grants in that the process in applying for the grant will not be generated from an ISP, but rather by the end users.

(TNS) — If you live in remote parts of the county, sometimes the Internet service that's available is either slow or not compatible with most modern laptops or applications.

In some cases, an address may be just out of the service area of a provider. Industry professionals refer to this as "last mile" service or the final leg where it might be too cost prohibitive to extend service coverage.

A new program funded by the Minnesota State Legislature will try to address some of the underserved areas.

Administered by Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED), the Office of Broadband Development (OBD) was directed to create a new program called the Broadband Line Extension Connection Program.

It will work quite differently from other broadband grants that have been awarded in the past in that the process in applying for the grant will not be generated from an Internet service provider, but rather would be initiated by the end user themselves.

DEED states on the program website that people can report to OBD that a wired broadband service is unavailable at their residence or business by entering information through an online application or calling a special phone number to start the process.

Once an application is submitted, DEED says that every six months, OBD will send the list of addresses from the applications to each broadband provider offering service in Minnesota. Providers then have ten days to notify OBD that they can provide service at any of the addresses on the list. OBD will then contact those people to let them know the name of the broadband provider that can offer them service and any discounted pricing plans available.

DEED says a sixty day reverse auction for ISP's will then be conducted for any specific area where there is no service provider, and the ISP's can bid on addresses to extend service from that list. In addition within the bidding process ISP's will reveal how much of a grant amount will be needed to complete the individual project. OBD will then select the lowest bids for the grant funds in a 60 day time frame. The OBD then enters into line extension agreements with the winning ISP bidders.

DEED states that the winning bidders will have one year from the date the contract is signed to complete the broadband line extension. The winning bidder must build a broadband service that offers speeds of at least 100 Mbps download and 100 Mbps upload.

The program was created through legislation Rep. Jordan Rasmusson, R- Fergus Falls, successfully led to enactment in the 2022 legislative session as a cost-effective approach to closing Internet gaps throughout Minnesota. Specifically, the OBD is seeking to bring service to locations that currently do not have a wired broadband service of at least 25 Mbps download and 3 Mbps upload.

"While high-speed Internet service sometimes is taken for granted these days, many pockets still exist in Minnesota where homes and businesses have been left behind, unable to tap into this tool which is vital in today's communications era," Rasmusson said. "This new grant process will be a game-changer as we continue closing service gaps for those currently facing technological disadvantages."

DEED states that the program is being funded with federal American Rescue Plan Act funding administered by the U.S. Department of the Treasury.

A household or business can apply to the Line Extension Connection program if it does not have wireline Internet service of at least 25 Mbps download and 3 Mbps upload. The application and additional information can be found at or by calling 651-259-7610 and requesting a paper application or by talking to someone at OBD who will complete the application on their behalf.

©2022 the Fergus Falls Daily Journal, Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.